Winter cold.

When the coalmen came to deliver two or three cwt. of coal from their horse drawn cart. Mum and me would hear them coming down the street, and by the time they got to our house, one would have flipped the coal hole lid with a penny, while another one knocked to ask how many hundred-weight we wanted, while a third man would stand by the horse.  I would stand just outside the coal cellar door and as each great big black hession bag was dumped upside down over the coal hole the noise was amazing.  The dust plumed out in my direction, and I could only anticipate when the next bag of coal would tumble and fall into the growing mound that would keep us all warm on cold nights.  If I was very quick, I could then run up the stairs, through the passage onto the doorstep to see Mum pay the coalman.  Sometimes the horse would leave a present or three on the road and I was fascinated to see how the horses bum used to expand to let the lumps out.  I used to wonder if my bum did that, but  decided it probably only happened if you were a horse.


The first thing after getting in from school it was one of my jobs to lay the fire with crumpled up newspaper and kindling wood covered with a small amount of coal from the big old battered two handled coal scuttle. I was not allowed to light the fire until after Dad came home from work and we had all eaten our tea. While eating tea the ever present wireless would give us the news which I thought at the time was really boring but then I could get the matches from behind the clock on the mantel piece and touch the papers edges along the front grate. Quickly the home service was abandoned in favour of the light programme and we would all settle down for the evening in front of the fire. Bothe Mum, and Dad had their leather armchairs either side of the fireplace, whilst my older brothers would continue to used the tea table for one or more of their hobbies. I however, being the youngest I was allowed to read my comics while sitting on the floor directly in front of the fire. Because I was in short trousers in those days very soon my legs would become all red and blotchy where the radiant heat from the glowing coals would sweetly sting not only my legs but my face as well. Sometimes, just before bedtime Mum would cut three big doorsteps of bread and I could impale them – one at a time – on the toasting fork  near the red hot glowing embers. I swear toast and butter never tasted so good.


Before going to school it was down to me to clear the white ash  from under the grate and tip the ash pan into the metal dustbin that stood just outside backdoor. Just routine tasks but it made me feel useful and although only a little boy both Mum and Dad would once in a while tell me what a good job I was doing for the family.


This entry was posted in Autobiography, History, housing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Winter cold.

  1. peter baxendale says:

    Brilliant,heartwarming nostalgia,Mike

  2. peterk says:

    Brilliant nostalgia-heartwarming,Mike

  3. J.G. says:

    Yes – and once in a while there were crumpets on that toasting fork. Unfortunately the heat from the glowing fire didn’t reach the frigid bedrooms. What about the rag-and-bone man? Ours had no horse, just a cart he pushed himself. His sing-song chant was as unmistakeable as a blast of O Sole Mio by The Three Tenors. Then there was the milkman who, once a week, needed our co-op number, which I still remember. Thanks for this.

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